Damn good design can be groundbreaking, making us reflect “I NEVER would have thought of that”. It can suddenly become painfully obvious making us think “why DIDN’T I come up with that?”. Damn good design can surprise us, make us smile, form strong opinions, and result in action.
In the recently published book Damn Good: Top Designers Discuss Their all Time Favourite Projects, Tim Lapetino and Jason Adam of design-firm Hexanine explore what sets Damn Good work apart.
Damn Good is comprised of four sections: Print, Packaging, Identity and Miscellaneous.
Identity work (top left to right): Ohio State Athletics/Rickabaugh Graphics, Home of the Games/Seven25. Design and Typography, Unreserved/The O Group, Loud Scholarship Foundation/Seven25. Design and Typography, Play/Kliment, Granada’s Millennium/ Valladares Diseño y Comunicación, Maria Videtta/Southpaw Studio, Spasiba/Tim Bjørn-Design Studio
Nobis Interactive case study by Erwin Hines II
“Wash Me” case study by Nico Ammann
The cleanly designed book is comprised of designers personal favourite work from around the globe. Rather than focussing soley on the beautiful, the book also explores the passion designers feel for their work. The book accomplishes this by including insights into the creative process, thereby providing inspiration beyond a picture gallery. Hexanine has managed to gather intimate stories that remind designers why we constantly search for “work that turns us on”.
One example from the book is provided by Kurt Niedermeirer of Niedermeirer Design. He talks of the emotional ups and downs of developing the packaging for Queen Mary Tea, a project that unfortunately wound up on the cutting room floor—a number of projects included in the book did not see the light of day. He recalls that during his first presentation with the client—who had already hired two other designers:
“… the client literally started crying over the excitement she felt that someone had finally realized her vision. Sadly, I soon realized why the other creatives were let go, or likely quit. The client proceeded to manipulate, alter, and add until there was nothing left of the original design.”
One Village Coffee case study by Able Design
A Matter of Opinion
We all have experiences battling over just what is Damn Good Design with clients and fellow designers. As with all things creative, Damn Good Design is a matter of opinion (share yours below and you could win a copy of Damn Good) and so I invited several designers to share their thoughts on the question:
What is Damn Good Design?
Dipika Kohli / Design Kompany
(If slideshow does not appear above, please check it out on Speaker Deck)
Image credits: Gekkeikan Petit Moon designed by Hiroshi Mitsuishi; H2O Fluid designed by Sayuri Studio, Inc.; Mina Ryushi book design by Bluemark Inc. The images are from the book, ‘Japanese Graphics NOW!,’ edited by Gisela Kozak & Julius Widemann. (Taschen: Los Angeles). The book cover design is Brutus Magazine Cover with art by Tadanori Yokoo for Magazine House Ltd.
Isabelle Swiderski / Seven25. Design & Typography Inc.
Damn good design starts by being appropriate. Intentions behind design work are myriad: to inform, to delight, to organise, to shock, to seduce, to provoke. If the designer’s intention is clear and finds its expression in an appropriate—and well-executed—verbal/functional/visual form then it will be good.
The “damn” qualifier is less quantifiable. It has to do with delight or surprise; it has to do with rewarding the viewer or user for engaging with the work. It speaks of respect for dialogue, layers of meaning and rich sensory experiences. It demonstrates that design can succeed when it heeds context.
2×4’s design exhibition “It is What It Is” has such characteristics. Oxo Good Grips embodies those as well. Unlike art—which arguably can exist solely for the pleasure of its maker—design’s purpose is decidedly utilitarian and its success dependent on whether or not its user understands it. And that, to me, is the beauty of it.
Great design has the ability to provoke in its audience a specific reaction, thus creating meaning and subtly enriching our lives.
Leighton Hubbell / Leighton Hubbell
Damn good design. That description doesn’t come around all that often—and I’d say that’s definitely a good thing. It’s not something you want thrown around all of the time. That would only dilute its meaning to the general design populace.
To me, for a design piece to be damn good, it would not only have to fulfill its strategic objectives very well, it should be well-crafted and produced, and of course, be something pretty awesome to look at. Something that, if you had it in front of you, you would be peering at it from all kinds of angles to see how it works and exactly how it was put together—you know, really take it all in. Of course, if it was really amazing, it wouldn’t be overtly obvious how it was done and would keep its little secrets.
I guess above all you might hear the ultimate compliment from a fellow designer—‘I wish I had thought of that’.
Even though Schwab’s original series began in 1995, the campaign was continued with occasional new pieces until at least 2008. They were beautifully designed and illustrated in their simple and limited color palettes and each highlighted the essence of each National Park elegantly in Schwab’s signature style. To this day, you can order a limited edition autographed print of your favorite poster. Having that kind of longevity in this day and age is a testament to his work on this project. If that doesn’t say ‘damn good’ about a piece of design work, I don’t know what does.
As for the Jack Daniel’s brand extension, I think the firm, Cue really nailed it on that one. It not only pays great homage to the classic, signature Jack Daniel’s branding look, but gives the packaging enough of its own personality to let it stand on its own. You know it’s part of the brand, but instinctively you know it’s something different and give it a second look.
One of the many nice details about the project is the icon illustrations of the bee, honeycomb and whiskey barrel for the label’s side panel. Details like that, to me, can set a package apart from the others and show how thoughtful and meticulous the design was carried out. Well done.
Win a copy of Damn Good: Top Designers Discuss Their all Time Favourite Projects
Hexanine is giving away two copies of their brand new book to random readers that either:
- Leave a comment below with a response to “What is Damn Good Design?”. Use a valid email address so we can contact you.
- Tweet your answer using the following format including the hashtag and url:
#damngooddesign is (your response here) http://bit.ly/IMo5yE